4 things you need to know before getting a gel manicure

What To Know Before Getting Gel Manicure

Including how to choose a reputable salon

With promises of a long-lasting, high-shine finish that won’t chip, it’s no wonder gel manicures have become the most sought-after nail look. Despite their popularity, however, there are several things you need to be aware of before jumping on the gel manicure train. We spoke to nail expert for CND, Rebecca Najjar, for her top tips.  

#1 / Choose a reputable salon

Choosing a quality nail salon is one of the most important things when gel manicures are concerned. But how do you know which salons are great and which ones are duds? According to Najjar, the easiest way to determine the quality of a salon is to take a look at which products and brands they use, as well as checking reviews online.

She also recommends ensuring your salon’s first priority is maintaining the health of your natural nails. How will you know? “A quality gel polish manicure does not require you to file or buff the surface of the natural nails prior to application,” says Najjar, who notes this is important for ensuring the integrity of the natural nail is intact and your natural nail layers remain healthy. Furthermore, Najjar adds, “a quality salon will invest in quality equipment. So, they should have the same brand LED/UV lamps as the brand of gel polish they use.” 

#2 / Lamp curing should be kept to a minimum

The majority of the criticism surrounding gel manicures is due to concerns surrounding the use of LED and UV lamps and their link to UV damage. However, Najjar says LED/UV lamps are safe and are not the same as solariums. With that being said, she does admit that the use of curing lamps is “equivalent to an extra few minutes in the sun between salon visits”. As a result, “you should only have to put your hands under the lamp once each time a coat of polish is applied. If the nail professional is ‘double curing’ each coat, then you should take that as a warning sign and choose another salon.” For added protection, we also recommend applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen to your hands at least 15 minutes prior to your appointment.

#3 / Protection is key 

Although gel manicures are incredibly long-lasting and unlikely to chip, they’re not indestructible. As such, you will need to commit to protecting your manicure as well as your natural nails underneath. “Once your gel manicure is complete, you should be conditioning your nails daily with a high-quality cuticle oil such as CND Solar Oil™. Your salon should retail a high-quality cuticle oil for you to take home and use. This oil will nourish the skin surrounding your nails and will also penetrate through the gel polish, toughening up the natural nail and preventing dehydration,” explains Najjar. 

If you’re on the hunt for other cuticle oils, we also love Essie Care Apricot Cuticle Oil and OPI Avoplex Nail and Cuticle Replenishing Oil.

CND Solar Oil™

Essie Care Apricot Cuticle Oil

OPI Avoplex Nail and Cuticle Replenishing Oil

Avoiding water is also essential if you want your manicure to last as long as possible. Because the most effective way to remove a gel manicure is to soak your fingertips, prolonged exposure to water, i.e. long showers or baths, as well as regular dishwashing, can cause your polish to lift. To minimise this, opt for speedy showers and wear rubber gloves when doing the dishes.  

#4 / Gel manicures shouldn’t damage your natural nails

Contrary to popular belief, gel manicures don’t cause damage to your natural nails. Instead, it is the removal process or picking off the polish yourself that is often responsible for weak and brittle nails. “Picking off your gel polish will damage your natural nails and reapplying gel polish over and over on a damaged nail can affect the longevity of your next gel manicure,” explains Najjar, which is why in-salon removal is essential. However, the unfortunate reality is that even in-salon removal can cause nail damage. In order to keep your natural nails in tip-top shape, “make sure the salon you have chosen does not use the electric file to remove your gel polish. The correct and safest way to remove gel manicures is to wrap the nails in foil with cotton soaked in an acetone-based remover for the manufacturer’s required time. This could be anywhere between five and 20 minutes. Then, the remaining gel polish should be gently pushed off using a wooden orangewood stick, not a metal tool,” says Najjar.

Looking for more manicure tips? Then check out how to choose the best nude polish for your skin tone and discover six ways to make your gel manicure last longer.

Are you a manicure lover? Share your go-to nail polish shade with us in the comments below.

Main image credit: Getty

Kate has worked for BEAUTYcrew since early 2016, first as a contributor, before being named Beauty Writer in 2017. She loves picking the brains of the industry's top experts to get to the bottom of beauty's toughest questions. Bronze eyeshadow palettes are her weakness and she's forever on the hunt for the perfect nude nail polish to suit her fair skin. Her words can also be found in Men's Health magazine.